There are a handful of authors that I have on autBlog | Twitter | Instagram | "Nothing about failure is final unless you accept it." You can also find this review on Booked J.
There are a handful of authors that I have on auto-buy. And, to be honest with you, "auto-buy" is actually code for, "There are a handful of authors who have me in an emotional choke-hold."
If you're new to my blog, Alexandra Bracken is 100% one of those authors. If you're not, chances are you already know how much this series means to me. In short: Bracken just has a way with capturing my attention with an equal balance of all things good in YA literature. The Darkest Minds being one of my all-time favourite series (as well as her stellar M.G. novel, and start of an unrelated series, The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding) in all genres.
To say that I'd been highly anticipating The Darkest Legacy would be grossly understated. I have been practically vibrating in excitement to finally make my way back into the world it is set in and I'm so sad that it took me as long as it did. But so, so, so happy that I was finally able to get to it because (a) Bracken is in fit form with this one, it's just as brilliant as the original three (b) I felt like I was reunited with old friends and even some foes and (c) getting to know Zu in a more grown up light was INCREDIBLE. Seriously, Bracken outdid herself and truly blew me away with every last punch-in-the-gut moment of The Darkest Legacy.
Punch-in-the-gut is the ONLY way to describe this book, really. Armed with just as much snark and high-stakes choices and action as its previous three installments, The Darkest Legacy has the ability to set itself apart from the other books in the series. It's dripping with heartbreak and heart pounding moments; mystery, romance, humor and more. Longtime readers will be able to acknowledge this as Bracken's calling card and the very notes that make the original run so well received by its fans.
As far as the original series goes, it ended on a satisfying note. Well, as satisfying as soul-crushing series can go. Everything changes in The Darkest Legacy and reminds us that there are no real HEA in real-life, and sometimes history has a nasty habit of repeating itself. What makes this work is that it's a reflection of how flawed society becomes when it's (a) fearful and (b) unable to learn from past mistakes. I think that Bracken handles the bleakness of this fact wonderfully and it really sets the tone for Zu, and the struggles she faces in The Darkest Legacy.
Bracken shines in expressing these human complexities. She doesn't forget where the original story took us and she honors it in a way that feels real. Although this is a continuation of the original three stories, it feels very much like it could stand on its own. Fans will be eager to catch a glimpse of their beloved characters (although, these glimpses will likely break their heart) and fawn over newer characters such as Roman and Priyanka.
Things to love: kick-a*s characters and Bracken's signature flip-the-script on tropes, family found plotlines that will make your hearts soar, sweet romance that doesn't fill up their narration and pollute it with something that could draw away attention from the characters singular development and central plotlines and MUCH, much more.
Overall, I thought The Darkest Legacy was fun and jam packed with action and suspense. I was unable to put it down, just as its predecessors, and found myself aching for more, despite its nearly 600 page count. I only hope this isn't the last we've seen of these characters, because the ending felt very loose and I couldn't help but to cross my fingers and hope for a fifth installment in the future....more
"Depression is like a fog / No one can see what you're really going through / When you're inside it / And you can't find tBlog | Twitter | Instagram | Review also found here.
"Depression is like a fog / No one can see what you're really going through / When you're inside it / And you can't find the end."
This was just beautiful. Breathtakingly so. So purely honest. I positively adored Glass Girl., but that will come as no surprise to any of you, right? You already know that Jessyca Thibault is the queen when it comes to absolutely flawless taste in lipstick, literature/poetry, tattoos and music. It's a no brainer. Sky is blue, grass is green, Jessyca Thibault writes fantastic poetry and has rockin' taste.
Seriously: have you seen her Instagram? Swoon. Talk about goals. But that's not what this review is about. If there is one thing we've learned about Thibault in her debut Doll Eyes., it's that she's got soul and that soul has a story to tell. While Doll Eyes. and Glass Girl. have a seemingly similar tone to them, each showcase a different fragment of her story to tell; two different relationships, two degrees of struggle and Thibault bares it all in her prose for her readers.
I've always said that the makings of a poet are complex: they have to be fearful and fearless, they have to be complex and narrate those complexities in simple tones. What makes a poet is their ability to look at their own demons and to write them down no matter the outcome. They look into what it is that makes them tick and they embrace us in some kind of intimacy.
What makes Glass Girl. remarkable is that it improves and builds upon Doll Eyes. which was already a beautiful piece of work in its own right. Unlike many of her peers, Jessyca's prose takes on a tone that is like getting straight into her mind. She polishes off the initial work, but it still has the pacing of something like thought.
One thing is certain: I hurt for Jessyca throughout Glass Girl., because it's so easy to. Yet I found myself mostly admiring her further. It goes beyond seeing her Instagram and thinking, SLAY GIRL. It takes a certain type of person to admit their faults, write down the wrongs that have been done to them, and then to publish it, and that bravery begs to be admired right alongside her brutally honest prose.
(Sincerely, I love her prose.)
For everyone who has ever struggled with anxiety and depression, that aching despair that grips you and the turbulence of dealing with heartbreak and betrayal, you relate to Thibault's story. It's a story, it's an expression, that so many of us can feel through the ages. In my mid-20s, I feel it and see parts of myself in what she has to say, and so will many others.
Like in all good poetry, something in you connects with it and for the moment you feel less alone.
You highlight, you pause, you breathe--Glass Girl. is a journey for both writer and reader.
Ultimately, I loved Glass Girl. for everything it was and for everything that Thibault will be in the future. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next....more
“It's okay if some things are always out of reach. If you could carry all the stars in the palm of yoBlog | Twitter | Instagram | (4.5) Review also found here.
“It's okay if some things are always out of reach. If you could carry all the stars in the palm of your hand, they wouldn't be half as breathtaking”
This is one of the most promising debuts in modern poetry. Light Filters In showcases a wise, and still vulnerable and young, prose. Kaufman's honesty is a breath held in the dark, those few moments before you step out into the light. You read Light Filters In and it feels universally true and complex. Part of you feels the heaviness that is behind it at moments, the other part of you feels intertwined with each and every line. Although Kaufman is young in comparison to her counterparts, she fits in perfectly.
Not only will fans of Rupi Kaur, Amanda Lovelace and Alicia Cook love this debut, Caroline Kaufman will likely carve out a place all her own in modern poetry. Whether readers know her from her wildly popular words scattered upon social media or are only discovering her for the first time in print, she will be the voice of her generation and connect them to prose.
Light Filters In is one of those once-and-a-while releases that will introduced countless readers to self-expression in poetry; they will become enamored with her and the genre, and perhaps begin the path of creating something of their own.
While I've said this about poets in the past, I have to admit: I wish someone like Caroline Kaufman was more prominent in my teenage years. It was so startlingly easy to see my younger self in her work. Ultimately, this is what makes poetry so everlasting: connection. Kaufman's pen will draw a line from her words to your soul and it's a wonderful thing to witness.
Light Filters In is can't-miss-poetry and, I'm willing to bet, only a fraction of what Kaufman's voice will bring us in the years to come....more
“I love reading true crime, but I’ve always been aware of the fact that, as a reader, I am actively choosing to be a consuBlog | Twitter | Instagram | Review also found here.
“I love reading true crime, but I’ve always been aware of the fact that, as a reader, I am actively choosing to be a consumer of someone else’s tragedy. So like any responsible consumer, I try to be careful in the choices I make. I read only the best: writers who are dogged, insightful, and humane.”
Before I begin, can we just take a moment to note the chill that runs down your spine upon reading the words once spoken by the killer that would later become this books namesake: "You'll be silent forever, and I'll be gone in the dark." You so rarely understand the mind of a killer but in that moment, you realize the arrogance that extends beyond one man's cruelty and it's terrifying. In recent months, I've taken up reading all the true crime books I can get my hands on as I research the (unrelated) murder of my aunt for a novel I will be writing. I'll Be Gone in the Dark is fast on the track to becoming a classic in its own right--and with good reason.
Michelle McNamara's intensity in her prose--this frank and respectful way about her research--is what makes this book so remarkable. As you read it, knowing that she had passed away before publication, you get this sense of who she was and the end result is masterful. Ultimately, the experience is almost bittersweet when you acknowledge the fact that only a few months ago the killer stepped out into the light and was finally arrested after decades of mystery.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark feels like part-true-crime and partly a retrospect on McNamara's life. Which is what keeps the research flowing, somehow. Every chapter fits seamlessly as the last, weaving the tale of one killer and countless victims of varying degrees of violence. The most accurate description would be that it achieves what In Cold Blood achieved so many years ago and gives reader a look into the crimes without sensationalizing them.
McNamara hoped to be respectful and consistently accurate in what pieces she shared with readers. In so many ways, she did so. I'll Be Gone in the Dark was by no means an easy read--but that is what makes it standout in its counterparts. Readers will be left with an overwhelming series of emotions; if they read the book before the arrest of the murderer, there was undoubtedly this fiery hope that one day he'd be caught.
The way that this novel draws you into things, makes you feel it even after he was caught. It isn't easy to create something so honest and captivating, and to not make light of the loss of life. McNamara did and left me in thoughts: sympathy, anger, sadness, hope.
Reading this book and acknowledging the horror that victims faced, and now knowing the man who placed them in a hellish reality, really sticks with you. After concluding it, and hearing the way he still managed to torment survivors later in life, I felt so much relief that they'd finally caught this man.
Hands down the best true crime book I have read in years....more
“That was what she loved about New York. That feeling of utter aliveness, a rush and flow of ruthless, furiouBlog | Twitter | Instagram | Review also found here at Booked J.
“That was what she loved about New York. That feeling of utter aliveness, a rush and flow of ruthless, furious energy. That New York belief that this was the center of the world, and god help you if you were anywhere else.”
Katharine McGee, you just slay. You actually destroyed me. In a fun, glamorous way that I would totally allow at least a thousand more times. First of all: WOW. I cannot believe the series is... over. I adored it! It was so very fun and nostalgic; reminding me of that simple time as a pre-teen/teenager where I spent a great deal of the year in anticipation for Gossip Girl and The A-List to have new installments published. The Towering Sky was just as thrilling and seductive as the previous two installments and probably one of the funnest releases this year.
While so many series lose their dazzling factor long before it ends, The Thousandth Floor has never lost its. This is entirely due to Katharine McGee's hypnotic prose, fascinating worldbuilding and ability to write teenagers who struggle with their lives, even in all that decadent privilege. No matter how futuristic The Towering Sky, and its predecessors, is--the dramatic comings and goings of elite teenagers is just the same as they've ever been.
The beginning of the end! If you're a fan of the series, you'll remember the devastating way that The Thousandth Floor began. When you first dive into the conclusion, you'll immediately see just how reminiscent the first few pages of this final installment are to the beginning. I love this.
There was a bit of a time jump between The Dazzling Heights and The Towering Sky, but McGee wastes no time in filling in the gaps for us readers. And boy, is there a lot that has happened or changed sine we last saw our beloved characters.
As usual, the drama is fiery and everything could change in a seconds.
I think my favourite part of this concluding novel is that it doesn't end the way I expected. Not entirely, anyways. McGee really leads readers into one way of thinking, only to lead us in the opposite direction moments later. She takes familiar tropes and makes them her own.
Which is what makes The Thousandth Floor both refreshing and familiar as a series.
That being said, McGee is an excellent writer. She adds extra dimension to her characters and created such a cool world. This was New York City as I'd never seen it--and I can't stress how fun it is. You can see a huge improvement in her prose as well, when compared to the first of the series. Which is a really big compliment, considering it was already fabulous.
I really enjoyed the way she wrapped up all the prior plots. We get a lot of closure and answers on all of the central plots--what does the future hold for Watt and his illegal activities, including Nadia, and what are the odds of him and Leda getting together for good, can Avery move past Atlas and live a happy life with her new boyfriend, what happened to Mariel, will Rylin and Cord ever move past their differences?
Overall, there have been so many questions left lingering in the trilogy and Katharine McGee works her a*s off to make sure they all are wrapped up. I won't spoil the ending but I will say--I loved it, I couldn't believe it was over yet I felt very satisfied, and her longtime readers will be happy with the final chapters.
Get ready for heartbreak, love, growing up, and a whole lot of drama and luxury!...more
Blog | Twitter | Instagram | As a note, a copy of this novel was sent to me by the author in exchange for my review. This does not effect my opinion. Review also found here.
HBlog | Twitter | Instagram | As a note, a copy of this novel was sent to me by the author in exchange for my review. This does not effect my opinion. Review also found here.
Holy crap, you guys. This. Book. Was. Wild. Although, if you've read the explosive, fantastical Whims of Fae series you know that everything usually is. A Dark Eternity was so brilliant, fast paced and thrilling, I almost couldn't catch my breath. Describing it one word? Fiery. Once again, Nissa Leder enthralled from the first chapter and as the story unraveled, the more wrapped up in the story I became. (Insert obligatory: hello, hey, hi, Nissa Leder is SO UNDERRATED, buy her work, remark here.)
Also, can we take a moment to swoon over the delicious makeover the cover art was given recently? I'm still not over how beautiful they are. Can I marry a book based on its cover-art? And, *Magnus Bane voice* I'm back. Got a little distracted looking at its cover, again. Word of advice? Add pretty cover art to your review after writing it, or else you'll* get too distracted.
Anyways, where to begin with A Dark Eternity? First of all: this series just keeps getting better and I am probably forever yelling about how good it is. I felt like, after the previous books conclusion, this was going to be darker than the first three books and I was totally right. It has such a fitting name. So. Much. Has. Happened. So much will continue to happen. Scarlett's world, and powers, keep getting bigger and honestly? I am here for it.
As per usual, Nissa Leder's worldbuilding skills are on-point. The romance is ON FIRE. And angsty. I'm not crying, you're crying. I loved seeing the dynamic between Kaelem and Scarlett grow deeper and more physical. I wasn't wholly sure it was going to head where it has when we first met Kaelem and while I started out as team Raith (my son, aha) I'm officially torn between the two.
A Dark Eternity gives us a lot of answers about the fates, new developments there, Scarlett's mother and father, a little more Ashleigh and some romance blossoming. Much like with the series as a whole, this installment will keep you on the edge of your seat in wonder and interest. Leder is the type of writer that will grip you and not let go.
I highly recommend this book, and this series, to any fantasy lover. ASAP. It's fast become one of my favourite series and it truly is criminal how underrated it, and Nissa Leder, is. A Dark Eternity is can't miss and full of so many twists and turns, it just begs to be read....more
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
I really enjoyed this book for many reasons. While it wasn't my favourite release of the year and it had its share of flaws, It Ends with Her was quite the ride and not at all what I was expecting. I've been recently expanded my shelves when it comes to thrillers/mysteries and one thing I've been aching for is more stories that center around F.B.I. agents and cases that consume them. Maybe it is because of the way my mind works--if I were in their shoes, trying to solve a case, it would haunt me until I finish.
I always look for characters that are as such. They are the ones that appeal to me most. All the complexities. The determination. The resourcefulness--they have to have these traits in order for me to read them for one reason or another. While I had my reservations when it came to Labuskes' book, I found myself feeling quite differently about it than I thought I might. So, of course, this was a pleasant surprise.
The main-main character, Clarke, is the type of character I appreciate in the genre. I say main-main character like that's a logical description--It Ends with Her actually features multiple POV and one of them is the serial killer, Simon, but I definitely consider Clarke to be the main character of the two big ones.
The narration is also split timeline wise and I appreciate how it ties everything together. Another thing I enjoyed of the book was the fact that the mystery was so prominent but there were other things sprinkled into the plot. The mystery takes the main stage, but there's still a good portion of background stories going on.
We all love a good cat and mouse game and this one is utterly... consuming. Clarke is consumed by the case, and the reader is consumed by everything. I loved, loved, loved the pacing for the most part. While it felt predictable at times and the ending wasn't altogether shocking, while still being kind of shocking, I really had fun reading it. Briana Labuskes has a prose that is so tantalizing, she makes even the lackluster moments stand out for brief moments in time.
(And I can't wait to read more from her in the future.)
Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot and would recommend it to anyone who's new to the thriller genre....more
As a note, a copy of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in anAs a note, a copy of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way. Review also posted here to Booked J.
Okay, okay--here we go: this was such a fun book and not at all what I was expecting! Although, I'm not sure what I was expecting to begin with. So, there's that. It's possible I picked this book because of its minimal but still cute cover, but we're not going to talk about that. Whatever it was that I had been expecting, was not what the book served me and at the end of the day I'm 100% okay with that.
I've only read one book of Jo Piazza's in the past and that was, of course, The Knockoff. Which was fun in its own right. I found Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win to be just a bit better and a lot smarter than The Knockoff but, ultimately, they are entirely different stories with entirely different meanings. Both are of the same vein and are quick, light reads to finish in one--or a few--sittings. Piazza takes a bit more of a political stance in her premise of Charlotte and I adored this quality.
In this day and age, it's always powerful to see women shaking up the political game. Fiction or not, I am here for it. It provides a nice and even, temporary, distraction from the present trashfire that is the U.S. government. Plus, you have to respect and appreciate the pure ambition of the characters in this book.
There's this underlying tone of honesty and frankness towards our own political climate in Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, and that would definitely be my favourite part about the novel. It's in-your-face with its honesty and if honesty isn't what you like, then this book isn't for you. For me, it makes me wish our beloved narrator was real. She shows us a reminder that sexism is still highly prevalent in our modern world, but I think--at this point--it's fair to say that we don't need a reminder.
I thought that Piazza really nailed it with tone in this book and balanced everything quite evenly. There was a lot to it that I would have changed, or added, but that's more-or-less about personal preference, not a defining quality of the book. I'd still recommend it in a heartbeat because it's an escape, but it's also very true-to-life and that's essential to making a good novel with such a premise.
Overall, I enjoyed Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win much more than I expected. Fun, honest and to the point, you really can't miss--or go wrong--with Jo Piazza's latest release. ...more
Blog | Twitter | Instagram | “I had no idea, of course, that of all the feelings of my youth that would pass, it was this one, of an abundance of time so great as to routBlog | Twitter | Instagram | “I had no idea, of course, that of all the feelings of my youth that would pass, it was this one, of an abundance of time so great as to routinely be unfillable, that would vanish with the least ceremony.”
Curtis Sittenfeld was the first author I read outside of YA literature all the way back in middle school. This was, of course, when Prep had only just recently been published. I remember not fully comprehending certain parts of Prep, due to my age, but I remember noticing something full of sparks in her prose--you know good writing when you feel it. And, boy, did I feel Prep even if it wasn't what I had gone into it expecting.
You Think It, I'll Say It was one of my most anticipated reads of the year for that reason alone. I've never really disliked any book penned by her. When I say Sittenfeld is one of the best writers of our time, I mean it--and this collection of short stories proves this. If you were in doubt about her abilities after Eligible (which, I think, wasn't given much of a fair chance amongst readers) then You Think It, I'll Say It will clear it up for you. Although short stories aren't always works I am keen on, Sittenfeld blows each and every one of them out of the park with her thoughtful writing and realistic characters.
I find that one of the biggest problems in short stories is that you simply don't get enough time to get to know the characters. Not truly. You Think It, I'll Say It is not one of those collections. Do I wish that each story had a novel of its own? Perhaps. Some more than others. Am I crushed by the fact that we only get so long with them? No. The way Sittenfeld crafted each was just enough to get to know them in pieces and she tells the stories she wants to tell within each of them beautifully.
You got to know pieces of their present-day lives as well as their pasts. I think that it just ties together wonderfully; giving us just enough of a glimpse into the character's life and times without being over-kill or underwhelming. It is that perfect middle ground of life. As always, Sittenfeld writes life as it is and always will be--complex, thought-provoking, etc.
There's something in You Think It, I'll Say It that feels like a retrospective and I really loved it. I love the tone that comes with each of the stories, varying from character to character and plot to plot. It came at just the right time for me and will surely go down as one of my favourite releases of the year. This book will be perfect for the humid summer nights that lay ahead and I can't wait to hear what Sittenfeld cooks up next for her readers.
As for the stories, I can't give away too much in terms of plotlines because--again--they are all short stories. It's difficult to put thoughts to words when it comes to collections like this, so all I can offer you guys is, "fantastic." Which is such an obvious choice. I mean, hello? When is Curtis Sittenfeld's work not fantastic?
My personal favourite stories were, however: The Prairie Wife, Do-Over, Gender Studies and Volunteers Are Shining Stars. Overall, You Think It, I'll Say It is a well-rounded collection that will surely strike a chord with its audience. Sittenfeld will never not be one of the best writers of her generation....more
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. ThisBlog | Twitter | Instagram | Review also found here.
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
I've said it once, I'll say it a billion times: Alicia Cook is one of the best voices in modern poetry. She never fails in moving me with simple prose and the ties between her poems and music make reading her work an even better experience. I Hope My Voice Doesn't Skip had a lot to live up to. Alicia Cook's first published collection, Stuff I've Been Feeling Lately, was/is one of my all-time favourite releases in poetry.
Cook has a way about her prose that feels so alight with everything that makes us human. There's strength and vulnerability. There's loss and love. Everything that a person can feel. My favourite part about Stuff I've Been Feeling Lately was its connection to music; the intimacy behind a poet's words is not unlike the expressions musicians use in their lyrics. I've always had this theory that the quickest way to knowing a person's soul is in the music they adore. So many of us find ourselves in music and poetry and Alicia Cook captures the essence of that statement beautifully. We know what Cook allows us, as readers, to know--both in her prose and in the music listed in every poem.
Alicia Cook's power remains in her ability to express herself in every line. There's an honesty to her that you cannot contain or replicate and proves to readers why she is a leader in the strongest voices of modern poetry. I Hope My Voice Doesn't Skip connects in a way that is crisp and to the point--an exceptionally beautiful nod to our humanity and Cook's ability to speak freely to her audience.
There's this uniqueness to her expression that I cannot quite describe but her longtime fans will be quick to acknowledge. I Hope My Voice Doesn't Skip proves that Cook is bound to get better with time; her first release captivated me, and this one gripped me further.
Once more, there's this rawness to her prose that I simply cannot get enough with. Alicia Cook is, hands down, a favourite in the poetry community and I cannot sing her praises enough. Name one emotion, and you'll feel it. And so continues the tradition of feeling all you can during one collection. Alicia Cook does it again!...more
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review/>Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Review also found here
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
Sisters' Entrance is a modern, poetic triumph. Simply breathtaking. Where to begin, where to begin, where to begin? I could not put down this collection by beloved slam-poet Emtithal Mahmoud. I just couldn't. Sisters' Entrance is packed with honest topics, expression and a voice that demands to be heard--and so many of us are listening. If you're looking for prose to move you, prose you feel aching in your bones for weeks after reading, this is the collection for you.
It's brutally honest. Thought-provoking. Every word hits you differently. Mahmoud has a voice unlike many in modern poetry and there's something utterly stunning about it. Sisters' Entrance reads like all good poetry should--with feeling, with intimacy, with connection. It is one of the best releases this year, both in poetry and in literature as a general scene.
Mahmoud has this way to her writing that feels so intimate. It cuts you, in a way. You're invited into the soul of each line. There's something so absorbing about her prose. Rich. Full of memories and of existence and pain and life. You feel what Mahmoud feels. You endure what many sections had to endure.
I cannot stress the importance of poetry. No matter the thoughts of readers, the similarities, the length, each poet has a story to tell. Sisters' Entrance is can't-miss-poetry and will move readers and remind them why we love prose to begin with. Emtithal Mahmoud's voice is so very important.
(3.5-3.8 stars) As a note, a copy of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This doBlog | Twitter | Instagram
(3.5-3.8 stars) As a note, a copy of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way. Review also found here at Booked J.
Finally, something GOOD! I feel like I've been in THE BIGGEST slump when it comes to YA fantasy books. I mean it: the biggest. Which is a bit unsettling, considering there's so many books out there--far too many to feel like there's a drought in the genre. But, there I was feeling like I'd forever be underwhelmed with the genre. And along came Song of Blood & Stone--which packed a seriously magical punch!
I was a little confused on it being sorted into the YA genre if I'm being honest. Much like the general confusion I felt over Sarah J. Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses. There are many scenes in Song of Blood & Stone that feel a bit more graphic than most YA* scenes do. While I don't at all mind it, it does seem to fit a bit less and makes me wonder if it was original meant for an older audience. So, that is something you should note. If that's not your cup of tea, there will be some scenes you'll want to skim over.
Now, before I get into the good about Song of Blood & Stone, I want to address the negatives. The negatives calculated into that .5 drop on what would have been a 4+ star review (ugh, I know, I suck): I felt like it didn't live up to its full potential in terms of fantasy. Don't get me wrong, it was still full of thrills and a certain essence of magic and fun. Just not as much as I'd hoped. I went into this book expecting one thing, but was surprised to find it took a more vocal approach unto the romance.
I'm not ragging on it, of course. The story was still wonderful.
As for the pluses. Oh, there were SO MANY. I wish I could have looked past certain parts I wasn't keen on, because the rating could have likely reached 4.5/5 stars. But, a 3.5 is far from bad, so don't hate me! I'd still recommend this book in a heartbeat because it was so fun.
Song of Blood & Stone's biggest strong suit lay with its characters; their character development and backstories, and the magnificent tone in which the series' world-building takes. Nothing is left in the dust when it comes to being developed, and continuing to develop throughout the course of book one. While so many fantasy series can take on archetypes that are overdone and underdeveloped, and take the "tell not show" approach, Penelope makes certain that nothing is left in the dark.
(Plus, there are a lot of elements to this world that tie into ours. And there is a moment that will be triggering re: sexual assault.)
She's taken great care in crafting a world that is enthralling to her readers and will leave a mark on them for good. This is essentially the perfect (!!!) first installment in a new series and shows off Penelope's writing chops--I have a feeling we're going to be hearing nothing short of praise for the series as it expands and I'm so intensely excited to read the second installment ASAP.
If you are looking for a good read that is action packed, romantic, compelling and full of diversity that is desperately needed in literature, Song of Blood & Stone is for you. This book has been out for a while and I'm honestly surprised it hasn't received more praise than it is--it's brilliant and will keep readers glued to their seat.
**I'm curious if I mislabeled this or someone else has because it kind of feels like YA and kind of doesn't....more
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does notReview also found here.
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
It wasn't that I didn't enjoy The Good Twin by Marti Green even a little bit. Or rather, that I didn't enjoy the writing: there were many positive elements to the book and its prose. As far as thrillers go, it was solid. Not the best, not the worst I'd ever read.
The problem with it--for me, personally--was that it didn't necessarily compel me to read it and stick with it for long periods of time. What I look for in a thriller is simple: something that I am unable to put down, something that makes my skin prickle in a nervous sort of tension. The Good Twin, although intriguing at times both in concept and plot, just wasn't one of those that caters to my personal taste.
In all honesty, I had this aching familiarity with it. This could be solely because of my standard reading habits--I do love a good thriller and appreciate the trope of good twin vs. bad twin--but it wasn't something I could just shake off. This did not endear me to it and made reading The Good Twin to be almost tedious, which is an injustice against the author's writing. I do hate to say anything against Green's prose because while the story itself wasn't for me, the writing was not bad in the least.
You know those books that you just can't fully connect to? You might have glimmers in the paragraphs where you're like, yes, this is getting good, but then suddenly you disconnect from every little occurrence? That was my struggle with The Good Twin.
Somehow, I kept disconnecting. If I had read this novel at a different time, it's quite likely I would have appreciated it more. Maybe it wasn't my time. Maybe it was past my time--all I know is, there were many things that made this novel what it was that will work for others who aren't me. ...more
“Women have to live so much of their life in the in-betweens.”
In case you didn't know: Megan Abbott is one of my all-time favourite authors. I adore her prose so much and the way she is able to portray the complexities of humanity and the relationships between women. It's fairly obvious why I'd been looking forward to Give Me Your Hand since it was announced. Abbott could write out the contents of a phone-book from 1975 and I'd be pretty much guaranteed to admire it. There is no other author out there like her and very few authors have made me feel to the degree that she has in prior releases.
Give Me Your Hand had a simple enough premise to it. As per usual, it followed the friendship between two young women. Armed with her brutal honesty and frank under-standing of being women, and the all-consuming friend-ships that can bloom in our youth, Abbott compels her audience into a chilling sort of captivation. While Give Me Your Hand is a solid release, and has its fair share of stellar moments, it is far from her best novel. There were moments where it seemed to pause and lack growth; perhaps this is due to its topic nature and inclusion of science (something I was never altogether great with in the past) and more of a personal preference.
I just found there to be quite a few passages where I nearly zoned out on. While they still had Abbott's signature shimmery prose to it, I did have difficulty focusing and connecting to the greater parts of it. They just weren't for me, and that's okay, because the story was enjoyable despite it.
What I found most striking about Give Me Your Hand is the sort of numbness that comes with it. I do not think I'm doing good with explaining it, but every time Diane appears on paper--both in present time, as a girl, and in the future as a women who has reappeared in Kit's life--there's this dreary sort of numbness that comes with her. I really dig it, because it adds this eerie element to it that will hit readers hard.
I enjoyed the central mystery and the connection that Kit and Diane shared, even after the years since high school passed and Diane told Kit a secret that changed everything. As adults, they are similar to who they were and because of this, that connection crackles even now. I thought there was something so terrifying, intriguing and bittersweet about their friendship and the series of events that unfolds in their adult years.
Admittedly, I found myself haunted by Diane's secret much like Kit was. There's something so... off center about Diane, you're disarmed. She seems normal enough. And then there's those moments in her scenes where you know she's not, and you're struggling right there with Kit.
Give Me Your Hand proves a theory I've had all along--even in Abbott's weaker points, her prose is so fiery and dark that there's no competition between her work and many of her contemporaries. I cannot stress this fact enough: even her least compelling works still remain better written than so many other's in modern times.
While this novel wasn't my favourite of Abbott's, it's still a fascinating read that will absorb your fear and captivate you in due time. Give it a chance, it's worth it once it gets into its groove....more
Blog | Twitter | Instagram | As a note, a finished copy of this novel was sent to me via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinionsBlog | Twitter | Instagram | As a note, a finished copy of this novel was sent to me via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
David Duchovny is back with his new, and completely enthralling, novel Miss Subways. After two fantastic releases under his belt ("Holy Cow", "Bucky F*cking Dent") Duchovny has more than proven his chops as an author. I've said it once, and I'll say it again: David Duchovny knows how to tell a story. And Miss Subways is, perhaps, his best, and most ambitious, work to date.
Armed with a whimsical twist, and Duchovny's hypnotic prose, Miss Subways takes a spin on mythology and the ever-present theme of love and impossible choices. Based partly aroundThe Only Jealousy of Emer by W.B. Yeats and this particular form of mythology, Miss Subways weaves itself into its own tale and then within the reader. It refuses to let go until you have reached the end of the road.
Intelligent, at times cheeky, and heartfelt, Miss Subways will undoubtedly be compared to Neil Gaiman's beloved novel American Gods.
While there is--of course--a similarity in structure, darkly laced humor and the use of mythology between Miss Subways and American Gods, the parallels don't extend past the mundane. Both tell a deeply engrossing, thought-provoking story but ultimately that is where the similarities end.
What is most striking about Miss Subways is how genuine, and yet fantastical, the novel feels as it unfolds. Duchovny crafts a cast of compelling, full of life, characters with many flaws. Just the way we like 'em.
Some of these characters are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, others are anything but. He takes the familiar--the story is set in New York City, the dialogue and narration are sprinkled with pop culture references--and gives it a new edge. If you were to ask me to describe Miss Subways in one word (as opposed to my typical ramblings) I'd pick sharp.
My second choice would be electric.
Once again, Duchovny's characters take on a life of their own. Emer is the heroine readers will love to meet on paper; delightfully real and at a crossroad of impossibilities. Her relationship with Con, and the timelines they are destined to meet within, is equal parts heartbreaking and deliberately loving. Miss Subways tackles the complexities of life and then some; managing to somehow stay grounded in all its twists and turns of the supernatural.
Further, the side characters are just as wonderful to meet. (We all have an Izzy, right?) Readers will find themselves in a balance of humorous interactions casually placed in all of Miss Subways chaos. Because in the midst of all its tension, the book itself is damn funny.
At its core, Miss Subways is a witty glimpse into what one might call fate. The story is reinvented in ways that keep readers on their toes. And, of course, leave them aching for a satisfying conclusion they aren't certain will come.
Miss Subways is can't-miss-literature and will take you on a wildly imaginative ride. Duchovny is on fire! Once again, he has penned one of my favourite books of the year....more
Ah, Sandhya Menon just knows how to tug at my heart! I cannot recommend her work enough to fans of Jenny Han and Stephanie Perkins. Last year's When Dimple Met Rishi was such a fun read and I felt like Menon was only just getting started. Spoiler alert: she DEFINITELY was and brought on the fluffy, warm and fuzzies with her latest book. Right now, if you were to ask me which I preferred, I would flinch and then run and hide from the question because they are both so... fun.
Menon's prose is just as sweet and to the point as it was in When Dimple Met Rishi, showcasing a very different, but still sweet, story. From Twinkle, with Love pulled me in from the start and I genuinely loved the characters we met throughout. I loved, loved, LOVED, the brief letters scattered throughout the novel. I feel like whereas When Dimple Met Rishi was a little more serious, but still quite lighthearted, From Twinkle, with Love, was a bit more soft and feel good.
What I loved most about From Twinkle, with Love, was that the two main characters were exactly as you want them to be: passionate and alive, but still flawed teenagers. There were many moments in the book where I scoffed at their actions, and more than a few moments of secondhand embarrassment for them, and I loved it!
Twinkle and Sahil felt real.
Menon is really great at writing from a teenage stand point. All the angst, the hope, the dreams, the little mistakes and fears--everything that makes youth, well, youthful, is present and ready to remind older readers what it was like to be a teenager; and to remind teenagers that they aren't alone in their flaws and passions. From Twinkle, with Love explores a lot of topics that create a balance of sweet and serious--each transition seamless and full of life.
I saw that a lot of readers took issues with Twinkle acting exactly as she should. She! Is! A! Kid! So, of course she is going to come off as self-centered and flawed. Isn't that the point? Since when do we critic teenagers for acting like teenagers? It's sad.
(And if that's your reason for not liking Twinkle, then we're going to have to have a conversation.)
(Kidding. But, seriously.)
That being said, there was a lot to love about this contemporary. Not only was the romance a sweet, first love, type of story--there were a lot of very real topics tackled. I loved the relationship between Twinkle and Sahil just as much as I liked the two as individuals. Twinkle's insecurities involving her place in school, and where she stands with her best friend, felt very real and relatable; in contrast, Sahil has a very different kind of insecurity involving whether or not he measures up to his twin brother.
Overall, I adored From Twinkle, with Love. It was adorable, romantic and easy to read. Sandhya Menon does it again!...more
Breathtaking, mesmerizing and utterly heartbreaking. A Girl Like That is bound to be one of the most lBlog | Twitter | Instagram | Review also found here at Booked J.
Breathtaking, mesmerizing and utterly heartbreaking. A Girl Like That is bound to be one of the most loved contemporary releases this year and for good reason. Armed with a sort of cattiness that you'll only find in teenagers, this is a story worth looking into because it rings true to real life. Bhathena captures youth beautifully and embraces all its complexities, crafting a witty and vicious coming of age story.
It's bittersweet and captivating, something that you simply cannot put down. A Girl Like That is truly and completely special.
And because of the subject matter of this book, it's not going to be for everyone. There are a lot of trigger warnings I should specify: sexual harassment, abuse, death, drug abuse, bullying and more. As always, take care of yourself if you find any of the above mentioned subjects triggering.
Needless to say, a lot is tackled in the pages of A Girl Like That and each topic is very important to discuss. Bhathena doesn't hold back in her portrayal of each and will certainly hit you straight on with emotion. She handles each topic as carefully, yet honestly, as a good writer should--showing us that she has a very promising career ahead of her.
Let's start with characters: I loved them. Zarin, our main character, and the story's signature girl-like-that, is a highly layered young woman with a trail of gossip following her. Due to her reputation, one that is fueled only by her smoking habit and the fact that she has kissed a few boys, she has very few friends and her home-life is not much more warm to her. I knew right away that I would love and feel sympathetic towards her and sure enough, my heart broke for Zarin from start to finish.
The things that she is subjected to in her brief life pains me. It pains me even further that when we meet her, she is already dead. I wanted to cry multiple times throughout this book and honestly did.
So much about her will call to Bhathena's readers. She is very much so just a girl. The way that her peers and her only living family members treat her is appalling. The exploration of various levels of abuse and bullying was pretty spot-on and will make you think.
One thing was certain--this story was not only thought provoking but deeply moving. It takes a true talent to craft such a story and Tanaz Bhathena is certainly a talent. She truly destroyed me with this story and how it all ended; reminding us that sometimes, people who are treated unfairly are left with nothing. And that at the end of the day, sometimes the people who treat us in such ways are left behind and never face up to their actions.
Overall, this book made me feel many things and I cannot stress how much I loved it. And how much I had hoped the ending wouldn't be so....more
“Everyone is supposed to be a combination of nature and nurture, their true selves shaped by years of friends and fights and parents and dreams and things you did too young and things you overheard that you shouldn’t have and secrets you kept or couldn’t and regrets and victories and quiet prides, all the packed-together detritus that becomes what you call your life.”
Wow, this book was breath-taking and full of so much darkness and whimsy. Going into The Hazel Wood was one of those blind experiences. I'd heard good and bad things about the book, virtually no inbetweens. The hype was there and so, too, was the negativity. But, I managed to avoid actual spoilers and even in depth explanations of what its plot actually was. I think this fact may be what made the contents of The Hazel Wood so effective and absorbing--me, going into it with so little knowledge as to what it was truly about.
What's certain is that Melissa Albert crafted something so darkly fascinating, it appealed to all of my senses and hit so many of the right marks. I love stories like this, so it's only natural that I was a fan of Albert's mysterious fairy-tale world. I can think of two recent releases that had the same ambition and effects on readers: Splintered by A.G. Howard and Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I believe that fans of the two previously mentioned series will flock to The Hazel Wood, as it features the same sort of darkness tangled with whimsical fantasy.
This isn't to say that it's without flaws or will without a doubt be for everyone. As always, literature is art and art is subjective to the person's preference. And my preference lay in the many marks that The Hazel Wood hit.
I liked the way the book made me feel. Like I was part of some sort of fairy-tale experience. Albert is vivid in her descriptions and the world she creates is full of so much mystery, I couldn't help but to fall in love with it. The Hazel Wood is not fairy-tale like in the vein of Disney stories, but in the fairy-tales that those tales were based upon.
There was something striking about the way that the story unfolded. As we explored more of the world it is set in, we realized that many of the stories within the story weren't merely stories--they were someone else's realities.
The way that Albert ties these moments in with our own modern world is seamless and gorgeous. I felt a few (possibly unintentional) nods to ABC's hit television series Once Upon a Time throughout the novel and I really enjoyed it! I found so many of the characters to be intriguing and mysteries--I adored Alice, was conflicted and attached by/to Ella and Ellery was just fascinating.
Not to mention the fairy-tale like world that we come across in Hinterland. Wow!
What really hooked me, was simple. A creepy story within the story: "When Alice was born, her eyes were black from end to end, and the midwife didn't stay long enough to wash her." There was this chill that took over my body when I read that and I'm not altogether certain what it was about this line that captivated me, but I'm glad it did.
The Hazel Wood was a blast from start to finish and caused a massive book hangover after I read it. I need a sequel, like, now. Especially after the conclusion and all the revelations we reached by the last chapter. I'm so hooked!...more
Blog | Twitter | Instagram | (4.5) Review also found here. “Dreams remind us of who we are and how we feel about the things around us.”
The Belles was one of my most anticipated YA releases of 2018 and with good reason: it sounded unlike anything I've ever read in the genre. And, through the years, I've read a lot of YA--so it's always nice to stumble upon something new. Plus, the lack of diversity is such a large problem in the community and The Belles promises to be more so.
Before I get started on my thoughts, I'll be level with you straightaway: I went into this book with no knowledge regarding the bury-your-gays trope used in it. I hope I didn't butcher what it's widely called because I suck at terms when it comes to tropes in anything. Finding this out, while reading it, really did sting and brought downy my rating a notch for obvious reasons. The Belles let me down in only two ways. the use of that trope and the lack of worldbuilding to a specific degree; only one of these can be ignored fully and I'm not going to hold the lesser note against Clayton.
While I was reading The Belles, I was struck by two things: the plotline is utterly unique (to me) but I felt very familiar while reading it. Dhonielle Clayton's story and prose are undeniably hers alone, and should be applauded, however, I felt similarly to how I felt whilst reading The Selection by Kiera Cass and The Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz.
Although the stories are not altogether tied in many forms of likeness, I found myself feeling exactly as I did by those: mesmerized. From Clayton's varied descriptions (so vivid and stunning) to the way everything felt almost... ominous, The Belles was not unlike an event to me. I found it impossible to look away and didn't dare try, even when the scenes were more tense. Clayton captures you from the start.
As for the concept, I thought The Belles was so intriguing. You could feel the passion that went into it. There's such a balance of genres in it--fantasy, romance, mystery--and it has a little something for everyone sprinkled in. Most importantly, it touches base on societies obsession with beauty--the society featured in The Belles is so very different than ours, but the ties are still there.
And it makes you evaluate quite a bit.
I loved the book, but it did have its flaws. We don't always understand what is happening and what the society featured truly means, but you get that feeling that you will in time. The above mentioned trope, of course, caused me to flinch back a bit, much like how I felt about The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee.
(Both The Thousandth Floor and The Belles I still love, mind you. They were impossible to put down. I just wish...)
A few of the twists were easy to see coming but no less appealing as they unfolded. I felt like a lot could have been developed better, but expect this to happen as the series progresses and personally I can't wait.
One thing that isn't underdeveloped are the complexities of the characters. I loved that they were very complex and still had that cloak of mystery to them. Sharp edges that you aren't certain if you see what you think you do or not. I liked the mix of certainty and uncertainty when it came to each of them and their relationships to one another.
Overall, I really enjoyed Clayton's beautiful and mysterious world and am looking forward to the next installment. The Belles was pure fun!...more
Did I spend the very last of my money on this book? Think about who you're dealing witBlog | Twitter | Instagram | Spoiler free! I swear! Review also found here at Booked J.
Did I spend the very last of my money on this book? Think about who you're dealing with here. Think a little harder. I ABSOLUTELY spent the last of my money on this. Who needs food when you have Shadowhunters. I wasn't kidding when I said Cassie's basically got me in a choke-hold. It's all fun and games until a demon comes and bites your left eyebrow off. Which is kind of how Queen of Air and Darkness left me feeling--like a demon bit my left eyebrow off. But, like, in a fun, "I can always draw them back on" satisfying way.
I tried to read it slowly. Really, I did. I was like, "Jessica. You're going to regret reading this too quickly." And then I was like, "Jessica. Don't listen to yourself. You can't be trusted. You're having a conversation with yourself when you could be reading Queen of Air and Darkness." Some points were made, right? I made a very valid point. So, I inhaled it.
SO. Queen of Air and Darkness, first of all, ripped my rune necklace off and poked me in the eye with it. Which, again, satisfying. Truly. 10/10 would be stabbed by a necklace again.
Like I mentioned to Loretta the other day, CC fans are always, like, getting stabbed in the soul by her books but we keep crawling back, whimpering, "Please, ma'am? May I have another?"
That was basically how I approached the book. Lord of Shadows destroyed me. Queen of Air and Darkness furthered that destruction but then pulled a total sour patch kids moment by giving me the warm and fuzzies.
First it was sour, then it was sweet. Cheers, Cassie. You're officially a sour gummy child. I've just revealed your ultimate secret. Feel free to toss me in a dumpster. Back where I belong. I have no idea why I'm babbling. I'm feeling a little hysterical? And like 500 different Shades (find the pun, if you've finished Queen of Air and Darkness) of EXHAUSTED, HEARTBROKEN and BOOKISH HUNGOVER.
.(Which, in the case of Queen of Air and Darkness, is arguably worse than ACTUAL hangover.)
What I expected from Queen of Air and Darkness, and what I got from it, were completely what I had signed up for. The Dark Artifices has been such a thrilling series, I can't imagine the Shadowhunter world without it. This was fast paced, romantic, exciting, confusing, heartbreaking, and basically every emotion in existence. Queen of Air and Darkness is Cassandra Clare at her very best.
And probably the most thrilling installment in The Dark Artifices....more
Like Us Series: Damaged Like Us: ★★★★☆ Lovers Like Us: ★★★★★ Alphas Like Us: ★★★★★ Tangled Like Us: ★★★★★ Sinful Like Us: TBD Headstrong Like Us: TBD Untitled: TBD Untitled: TBD
Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Review also found/>:/>:/>Headstrong/>Sinful/>Tangled/>Alphas/>LoversLike Us Series: Damaged Like Us: ★★★★☆ Lovers Like Us: ★★★★★ Alphas Like Us: ★★★★★ Tangled Like Us: ★★★★★ Sinful Like Us: TBD Headstrong Like Us: TBD Untitled: TBD Untitled: TBD
Is there anything better than a new book by Krista and Becca Ritchie? Okay, okay. You got me. Logically speaking, there are a lot of things that would tie pretty close to being as good but not quite on its level. I'm so profoundly attached to the world that the Ritchie Sisters have created for us--from its beginnings in Addicted all the way to Like Us, I'm so attached to these characters. Alphas Like Us reminds me why... not that I needed the reminder to begin with.
First of all, it's impossible for me to not love every last (main) character in this series. I've tried. I can't. Both Krista and Becca Ritchie have such a deep understanding of what makes a person, well, a person. And this is the best way to describe the characterizations of the cast of Alphas Like Us. We aren't cheated out of flaws. There's no such thing as perfection. You'll swoon. You'll cry. You'll groan in frustration. You'll see signs of life and there's not much else to say beyond what I've said in the past--Krista and Becca Ritchie write their characters in true-to-life living colour; they may as well be your very best friend. Sometimes, you half expect them to slide from the pages and pop around for a chat.
Or maybe that's just me. I do have an attachment to these characters. It's kind of impossible not to.
Like his parents before him, Maximoff Hale is flawed and intriguing. He is alive. You want to know everything about him. Most importantly, you want for him to live a happy life--and you want that happily ever after with his boyfriend, Farrow Keene.
(Who, of course, you love, too.)
One of the best things about his story in the Like Us series is we don't see him as just Lily and Loren's oldest son. We saw his conception, his birth and his early years throughout the stories that spanned his families books. By the time Damaged Like Us rolls around, Maximoff is an adult who'd grown up in the spotlight (thrown into an impossible life that no one really had a choice about) and was frankly just trying to do his best.
We see him not as a child, but as the individual that he is. In this time, we learned things about him--his fears, his fiercely protective nature, his flaws, his desires and most importantly his heart. I knew I would love him from the start, but the further we dived into those flaws (the similarities between him and his parents) and watched as he fell in love? Swoon. There's something so likable about Maximoff that I'm not sure what kind of monster wouldn't root for him.
(I love my bisexual son!)
Alphas Like Us picks up quite quickly after Lovers Like Us. Maximoff and Farrow are exactly as we want them to be--flawed, happy and thriving.
As their relationship remains steady and progresses as any good romance should, we learn more about Maximoff's relationships with his family and cousins. As per usual, the side characters are more than just background noise to the plotlines featured. We get glimpses of what's to come outside of their story but the central plots go beyond family and coming of age. There's a lot of bumps in between time, but it's nothing they can't handle together.
This time, we see Farrow's growth take an unexpected (but not entirely so) change of pace. After one night threatens to tear him and Maximoff apart, and one of them is seriously injured, Farrow decides that--while he loves his job as a bodyguard--he should have never fully given up on medicine. I loved the change of pace because there's something so relatable about there being two massive parts to one person and in Farrow's case, medicine is a part of him that he can't outrun forever.
While the journey has been split for both of them, I felt as though Farrow's journey took the forefront this time around and Alphas Like Us allowed him to shine in a way that we knew he always would. I feel like his character growth left me feeling like I did in Hothouse Flower, watching Daisy search and search for herself. Or even in Kiss The Sky, as Connor discovered the path to accepting--and to giving--love.
That's what I love most about these books. It's all about family. It's all about love. It's all about series of connections and mistakes and triumphs. Alphas Like Us feels like a classic Ritchie Squared novel in the sense that it tugs at your heartstrings and keeps you attached to this family. One would think that, at this point, there would be no more stories left to tell--but boy, is there ever.
I'm excited to see Maximoff and Farrow again in the future.
But I'm also ready to see some of Maximoff's family take center stage.
Krista and Becca Ritchie have done it again. Alphas Like Us is full of heart and soul. It's impossible to put down and even more impossible to forget....more
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honeBlog | Twitter | Instagram | (4.5) Full review also found here.
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
S.T.A.G.S. is the type of novel that you need to really be in the mood for. If you're not in the right state of mind for the book, it will certainly not be your cup of tea and border on dull or lifeless. But, it's exactly its dreary tone of danger that captivated me from the get-go. S.T.A.G.S. is smart and indulgent, mysterious and gray, compelling to a quality beyond its age range. It's perfect for fans of Kate Brian's beloved Private series and twisted in just the right way. There's something utterly compelling and fresh to S.T.A.G.S. that I can't quite explain without spoiling the story.
So what do you get when you mix (1) Elite school for mostly over privileged kids (3) Outsiders longing for the chance to no longer be on the outside looking in (6) Of said Elite School's "most admired group of friends" called the Medievals and one weekend outing full of all the bleak and luxurious perks of being part of a clique? A twisted game of hunt or be hunted that will, without a doubt, do your head in with all the suspense that follows.
Straight away, we're introduced to the narrator/main character Greer MacDonald. Greer is a very solid narrator and frankly, the story wouldn't have worked from anyone else's point of view (sans, perhaps, Henry--but we'll get to that later) because she truly speaks to readers. As it happens, Greer's voice is exactly how you'd expect it to be--she is thoughtful, shaken and somewhere between child and adult.
I wasn't sure I'd like how the narration would be set up--in something like a retrospect--but it truly worked. I liked that we saw Greer's life as it was before the event; her quiet observation of her fellow classmates, the ones who isolate, ignore or mock her, the admiration she had at first for the clique known as the Medievals and in particular the ringleader, Henry de Warlencourt.
There's this sort of innocence to her at first. I am reluctant to use that exact term but there's nothing else quite sufficient to refer to the picture of Before that she paints in her narration. Because the story is told in comparison to life Before and After one fateful weekend.
Other elements included in the story are: cruelty, privilege, friendship and what it's like to grow up in a word of insiders as an outsider.
At its core, S.T.A.G.S. could be seen as something not terribly unique. Upon first glance, I'll admit, I thought it'd be just another private school mystery that had little substance. But Bennett surprised me with her descriptive writing, richly drawn history and spine-tingling suspense that built up slowly and in what felt like real time.
You see, she has this way of writing her characters that feels incredibly real. Like you already know them. Greer could be your very best-friend, a girl from your class, your sister. Chanel could be much of the same. And of course, so can Shafeen. These three serve as the moral center of the novel and feel very much like the sort of kids I'd have befriended during my teenage years--I loved that quality. You truly wanted them to get out of their ordeal alive.
As for the Medievals, they too felt like kids you knew in high school... but with a dreadfully dark and disturbing twist. That being said, I'm not sure why many reviewers are titling this story as something similar to the film Mean Girls. Plot-wise, the story is completely different and far more creepy due to its subject matter and the so-called game at hand. Come to think of it, there's nothing quite like it that I had ever read before and that's what made it so appealing to me, plot-holes and all. The only book I can think to compare it to, in its genre, is the above mentioned Private (and Privilege) series by Kate Brian.
In fact, Henry feels like the perfectly suitable counterpart to Private/Privilege's deliciously charming and utterly evil Ariana Osgood. I remember thinking, for the most part, how similar they were in tone and personality. Admittedly, Ariana was the much more sympathetic villain but they are both deeply compelling because of their gruesome games.
But back to S.T.A.G.S.
I'm not going to tackle the plot-holes that made me knock my rating down half a star because they're more personal preference ticks than actual faults of Bennett's delectable tale. S.T.A.G.S. was more than any flaws it had and that's what makes it so brilliant and atmospheric; it isn't perfect but it sure is easy to get wrapped into.
Essentially, the story's biggest focus is the Medievals and their clique's ways. You know the type... until you don't. Because these kids aren't exactly the mean girls and boys you've known your entire life. What I found to be most intriguing about them was not their personalities or lack of quirks, it was the way they owned the school and its students with barely any whisper. They had this eerie control over everyone and everything, to the point that their word was basically law.
And there's this whole conspiracy on just how deeply their word runs in the entire area, even beyond the school. Including some interesting trends they set--like the distaste for technology and social media, not something you see everyday in this particular age group. It begs the question... who else is under their thumbs?
They are true hunters; stylish in their arrogance, intelligent and conniving. They lure you into a sort of comfort before going in for the kill. Quite literally. The worst of them all, of course, is Henry. He is clearly the mastermind behind everything and calls the shots in his own time. What's worse is he is the type of character that chills you to your bone as you wonder if you should distrust him or if it's all in your head.
That's the biggest theme of the novel: you just don't know who to trust and if you, and the characters, are overreacting.
Every year, at half-term, (?) the Medievals host a weekend away at the estate of Henry's family. The place is old and luxurious, setting further the tone and atmosphere that Bennett had set up at the just-as-old-and-creepy school, and the purpose of the getaway is supposedly to scope out new prospects for their little clique.
During this time, the group of six known as the Medievals would get to know a group of three and partake in "huntin' shootin' fishin'". This, of course, makes one outsider suspicious from the get-go and the other two are seduced into this idea that, one day, they'd be a part of the group for real. Any teenager who has felt loneliness or like they don't truly belong in school would have felt the same, and that vulnerability serves as something obtainable for the audience.
It also serves as something the Medievals rely on when it comes to their own games.
Soon, the weekend turns from fun to a nightmare and the three outsiders have to find a way to beat the others at their own game. One thing is for certain: none of them are safe and the hunt is on.
With a chilling pace and fascinating twists and turns, S.T.A.G.S. proves itself to be one of the best YA books of the year and one of the funnest debuts I've read in a very long time. My heart was pounding at a constant pace throughout the many thrilling moments and my mind is still reeling from that final twist. And the way that it ended was truly and completely satisfying! I loved S.T.A.G.S. and cannot wait to hear more from Bennett in the future....more